In keeping with the ‘Argyle Declaration’, President Dr Irfaan Ali has written his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolás Maduro, for the technical team from both countries to meet for the first time in neighbouring Brazil.
This was revealed by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in a January 4, 2024 letter to the two neighbouring presidents.
“I am profoundly encouraged by the letter dated January 2, 2024 from the President of Guyana to the President of Venezuela in respect of arranging the first meeting of “The Joint Commission” in Brasilia to advance further “the Argyle Declaration” and its purposes,” said PM Gonsalves, one of the main interlocutors in brokering the meeting between the two leaders amid raising tensions over the ongoing border controversy.
Following the historic December 14, 2023 talks between Presidents Ali and Maduro in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the two Head of States agreed, in an 11-point declaration, to “…establish immediately a joint commission of the Foreign Ministers and technical persons from the two States to address matters as mutually agreed. An update from this joint commission will be submitted to the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela within three [months].”
Presidents Ali and Maduro also agreed to meet again in Brazil, within the next three months, or at another agreed time, to consider any matter with implications for the territory in dispute, including the update of the joint commission.
Only recently, the Guyanese Leader disclosed that the technical teams from both countries will be meeting to set out a common framework that will lay the foundation of the second engagement between himself and President Maduro.
“We still have to iron out the modalities and so on, so I foresee a number of meetings before that meeting in Brazil,” President Ali indicated during a year end interview with online media, News Room.
The historic face-to-face meeting the Guyanese and Venezuelan leaders came on the heels of concerns by regional leaders after the Maduro Government held a referendum on December 3, 2023 with the aim of annexing Guyana’s Essequibo region – two-thirds of the country’s territory.
Following the referendum, President Maduro subsequently announced a series of actions including, among other things, issuing identification cards to Guyanese living in the Essequibo and issuing licences for mining and other activities in the Essequibo County.
Given Venezuela’s threatening posture, the Caricom/CELAC/Brazil-brokered meeting was held last month between the two Presidents in St Vincent and was geared towards maintaining peace in the region. The talks were led by Prime Minister Gonsalves of St Vincent in his role as President Pro Tempore of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), and supported by the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also played a key role in organising the meeting.
After more than eight hours of engagements at SVG’s Argyle International Airport, Presidents Ali and Maduro came to several agreements including that Guyana and Venezuela, directly or indirectly, will not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstance, including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two States.
In the joint declaration, titled “Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela”, the two presidents also agreed that any controversy between the two States would be resolved in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement dated February 17, 1966. The two countries have also committed to the pursuance of good neighbourliness, peaceful coexistence, and the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean.
It was also agreed that both States would refrain, whether by words or deeds, from escalating any conflict or disagreement arising from any controversy.
The joint declaration states: “The two States will cooperate to avoid incidents on the ground conducive to tension between them. In the event of such an incident, the two States will immediately communicate with one another, the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC), and the President of Brazil to contain, reverse and prevent its recurrence.”
Importantly, it was “noted” in the joint declaration that “Guyana’s assertion that it is committed to the process and procedures of the International Court of Justice for the resolution of the border controversy” as well as “Venezuela’s assertion of its lack of consent and lack of recognition of the International Court of Justice and its jurisdiction in the border controversy.”